For an online seller, packaging is the first physical impression of your brand to your customer, and plays an important role in representing your brand and giving your customers a great experience when they order from you.
At a time when 'un-boxing' is a thing ( read Vice.com's article on this internet phenomenon here !), creating a memorable un-boxing for your customer that leaves them delighted with an experience they'll want to share can help build your brand, gain repeat purchases as well as attract new customers.
Brands like Apple (the obvious example!) obsess over intricate details of every element of their packaging and the result is an outstanding customer experience, worthy of sharing. Many companies have followed Apple's lead - a new standard has been set, and subsequently a new benchmark for consumer expectations of packaging.
Without a doubt, the packaging experience is a key contributor to consumer perceptions of the brand, even before the consumer begins to interact with your product itself. Whether you're a big brand or a small independent, packaging, when done well and creatively can draw attention to your brand, convey a message, make your customer feel a certain way, and it can set you apart from your competitors.
So how do small independent brands and hand-makers, operating on a shoestring budget create a great experience with packaging? Here are our top tips for beautiful packaging, without breaking the bank.
1. Know your customer
When planning your packaging, carefully consider your brand and your target consumer - your packaging should be a natural extension of this. What feeling do you want to leave your customers with? What's your brand personality?
For example, if your brand is an eco-friendly skincare, consider packaging options that are consistent with that proposition - a packaging suite that is minimal and uses sustainable materials - think biodegradable void fill, unbleached cardboard and recycled paper.
If on the other hand, you're selling a high-end, bespoke jewellery pieces, it's likely your customers will have an expectation it will be beautifully presented in a custom box in beautiful colours consistent with your brand image (think Tiffany's trademarked Tiffany Blue with private custom colour PMS 1837 - the number deriving from the year of Tiffany's foundation).
A packaging experience that's inconsistent with your overall brand proposition can create confusion with consumers as they try to reconcile what your business stands for - as they pull apart the packaging to get to the purchased item. Making sure your packaging is on-brand and consistent, will ensure you'll delight your customer with every purchase.
2. Package with purpose
When designing your packaging, you'll need to take into account the following elements;
_ your outer layer packaging - that's your shipping box or mailer that your goods will be transported in;
_ your product, or inner packaging - this is the material you product is contained in and works with your outer packaging to avoid damage to the product in transit and;
_ any additional promotional material you include in your package, which is anything from a thank you note, business card, receipt, a sample product, promotional offer, etc).
Also consider the practical requirements for shipping your products, if you're selling delicate items, you'll need to account for protective materials (like backing boards for art prints, etc).
Above all, keep it simple.
Excessive packaging is wasteful, can be harmful to the environment and can leave your customer with a negative impression of your brand. Something as simple as quality kraft paper with a quirky note inside can be super effective.
3. Consider eco-friendly options
You can't avoid the focus on making packaging more environmentally-friendly (just look to the conversation around major supermarkets banning single-use plastic bags).
Incorporating recyclable or re-usable materials into your packaging reusable is ALWAYS a good idea. Not only will you reduce the contribution to landfill, your customers will appreciate less waste - and if you can find a way to make your packaging functional as well, it can be a lasting reminder of your brand for your customers.
We also use shredded magazines as void-fill inside our shipping boxes. It's not only environmentally friendly, it's really cost-effective. A stack of old magazines (we buy from op-shops) and a $20 vertical paper shredder is all that's needed to create a colourful and effective method to protect the contents of the box during shipping.
There are plenty of creative ways to make your packaging less destructive on the earth, and differentiate your brand in the process.
4. Make it personal
As a handmade business, a personal touch is the perfect finish to packaging your goods. A thoughtful, handwritten thank you card can go a long way in building loyalty. As a small business, it's something that larger retailers just can't compete with and you can use this to your advantage.
Use quality stationary, use your customer's first name and, where possible, include a unique detail about the transaction (for example, if you know the product is a gift).
You could make this even more efficient as a communication tool by writing your thankyou on the back of a postcard with the reverse printed with your contact details, social media accounts and details of how to share their purchase, leave a review or even offer a discount on their next purchase.
The great thing about printing business cards, small flyers or postcards is that they don't cost much, thanks to companies like Moo, you can print in low volumes and they're a proven tactic for increasing word of mouth and loyalty.
5. Don't over-invest
If you're reading this, you're (like us) a small brand working with a minimal budget.
These days, there are many options for limiting your investment in packaging materials. While it may be tempting to go out and order completed customised printed boxes and other materials, but the reality is that even though your unit cost may be low, you'll need to order in the tens of thousands.
When you're starting out, or running a handmade business as a side-hustle, investing in large volumes simply isn't viable. Luckily, there are many options for purchasing smaller quantities of items like plain shipping boxes, and mailers (some of our favourites are OfficeWorks and eBay), that you can then customise yourself.
No matter how big your business becomes, the humble rubber stamp is a tool that will take you a long way in your packaging. When you're starting out and shipping low volumes, use your stamp on boxes and mailers to customize them as you go.
The stamp will pay for itself in no time, and will hold up for thousands of impressions in the future. A custom paper embosser offers a more premium look and feel, and stickers are also a great tool for customising blank materials, and there are loads of suppliers that offer low minimum orders.
Remember to factor in the cost of your packaging in your overall product cost, ensure it suits your budget and that you can still price your goods competitively and achieve your desired profit margin.
Packaging is more than just fulfilling an order. It's an integral part of the overall customer experience - especially so for online sellers. If you design and execute your packaging well, even the most simple of materials can look super professional and create a lasting impression on your customers.